ONLINE NEWS: Music and moorland combined in groundbreaking digital project from Marsden Jazz Festival

Marsden Jazz Festival is delivering brand-new digital content to their loyal audiences, supporting artists and pushing the boundaries of what it means to make digital music

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Keeley Forsyth and Matthew Bourne
Keeley Forsyth and Matthew Bourne

Marsden Jazz Festival is taking world-renowned musicians out onto the wild moorland above Marsden and recording them playing live for online audiences to enjoy!

Marsden Jazz Festival, one of the UK’s longest running jazz festivals, has found a way to entertain their audiences by bringing music into their homes, despite having to cancel their 2020 festival in October due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Their new project is called Chronotope: Music in a Different Time and Place and it explores the ideas of music and its ability to transcend time and place. The project is recording and filming artists performing in iconic locations across Marsden Moor – bringing the countryside alive with sound and embracing the visual and sonic richness of the landscape

The project is designed to create a much-needed platform for artists, at a time when live music is difficult to stage, and to help Marsden Jazz Festival develop its digital programme.

1920 x 1080 Tom Challenger. Credit Marsden Jazz Festival
Tom Challenger

The first artists to perform on Marsden Moor were Keeley Forsyth and Matthew Bourne on 8 July, followed by Tom Challenger on 31st July. Singer and actor Keeley performed pieces from her album Debris, which The Sunday Times described as “one of the most remarkable in years” by, and was accompanied by pianist and composer Matthew Bourne on a portable harmonium. Marsden-born Tom Challenger created a brand new piece of music called Geond, from the phrase ‘over yonder’ which used graphic scores and improvisation to draw attention to ancient and modern routes across the moorland from Roman roads, to an underground trans-European data line.

All the performances took place at a number of iconic locations across Marsden Moor, a Bronte-esque 5,683 acre estate on the very outskirts of Huddersfield, including a performance through an iron door into a ruined pumphouse which once served the Standedge Tunnel; performances in two quarries with 360 degree sound reverberation; and a performance stood atop a WW2 sentry hut on Pule Hill, with panoramic views over the moorland.

Interviewed on the Marsden Jazz Festival Official Podcast, another new avenue of digital content for the festival this year, Matt said, “it was nice to get something booked in the diary, and to potentially see light at the end of the tunnel”.

The audio for these performances was recorded by world-renowned sound artist Jez riley French and included not only the exceptional music by the artists, but also the rich and varied environmental sounds of the moorland itself. These audio recordings are combined with awe inspiring video footage from Marsden-based filmmaker Alistair I Macdonald who combines close up shots with stunning aerial drone footage. The result is a curiously intimate performance in a vast, wild landscape.

Barney Stevenson, artistic director at Marsden Jazz Festival said, “Witnessing artists performing first hand was a magical experience – I hope that this magic, along with the visual and sonic aspects of the landscape that Jez and Alistair bring to the work, comes across in the films”.

The Chronotope project by Marsden Jazz Festival, supported by Arts Council England’s Emergency Response Fund, will run until the end of the year, with regular video and podcast content from artists who will be performing on Marsden Moor being published throughout that time. This project is a brand new direction for Marsden Jazz Festival, but one which the charity hopes will give them some stability through this uncertain time.

Full length videos of all performances are available on the Marsden Jazz Festival YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCEVvCNDO4H0QxXBX6p7O5Kw/ as well as via their website www.marsdenjazzfestival.com/chronotope

You can listen to the Marsden Jazz Festival podcast at https://marsdenjazzfestival.com/podcast or on the usual podcast platforms (Apple podcasts, Spotify, Amazon + Alexa, Google podcasts)